five people sitting around a table with laptops
Howell Davies

By Howell Davies, Senior Engagement Project Manager, Interface

Build, build, build, spend, spend, spend – some of the mantras we regularly hear from Government Ministers are linked very clearly to jobs, jobs, jobs. 

Education, skills and lifelong learning are crucial for any economy and more so now as all countries seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One of the core objective of the Scottish Funding Council is: ‘Ensuring colleges, universities and specialist institutions form part of a successful, world-leading, coherent and sustainable system of education that responds effectively to the future needs of learners and the skills needs of the economy and society, enhances our rich cultural life, and strengthens Scotland’s international connections.” Never has this statement been more important in Scotland’s recovery post COVID-19. 

Like many businesses, colleges and universities are having to be flexible in their approach, pivoting and adapting their efforts to support many challenges the country is facing; potential unemployment, skills gaps; supporting priorities such as health and wellbeing and net zero – the influence of education and skills training is wide and varied.  Colleges and universities can also help support businesses retain staff through supporting diversification and upskilling workforces.  

The team at Interface help businesses find the right academics to solve challenges through accessing knowledge, research or skills.  In these challenging times when employees are the major asset of any business, we are encouraging companies to avail of Workforce Innovation Vouchers. In partnership with a university or college, this funding supports ambitions to deliver innovation within a company’s workforce – from enhancing processes or practices to adopting new business models.

So what does this look like in practice?

One example is James Frew Ltd in Ayrshire, one of the largest privately-owned building services companies in Scotland.  The Workforce Innovation Voucher gave the company the opportunity to collaborate with West College Scotland to develop a new company-wide innovative training planning process which included monitoring certification renewals and developing individual employee training plans.

In parallel to supporting individual companies through bespoke workforce innovation, colleges and universities across Scotland have opened their virtual doors to deliver new online courses targeted towards critical skills in demand from employers.  Recent developments include:

  • Forth Valley College’s new Digital Skills Transforming Care Course which will establish digital health and care as a learning priority for key workers, with the potential to reach 3,200 care at home staff who are currently employed across Forth Valley.
  • Abertay University utilising Scottish Funding Council’s Upskilling Fund has developed four free credit-bearing courses to help individuals develop their digital marketing abilities, and support businesses. They are delivered online and include live teaching sessions. 
  • The Open University in Scotland and Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) are encouraging workers who are in furlough or face redundancy to apply for a new selection of fully funded modules to support skills development. The modules address specific skills gaps in Scotland - IT, business, maths and engineering, and support workers to reskill.

Retaining jobs, upskilling for new requirements, and educating the workforce of tomorrow needs collective and collaborative approaches from across universities, colleges, enterprise and skills agencies, and the private sector. 

Through the administration of the Workforce Innovation Voucher, the Interface team are ready to help – please do get in touch if you wish to explore what might be possible. 

22 July 2020